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They Taste Like Love

Under three stars, by a shore.
Sat a man, with three toes on one foot and a stump on the other.
He mumbled and drew figures in the sand with his left hand, clutching what remained of his dirty threadbare robe together, with his right.

A child, overwhelmed by curiosity, approached him.

“What are you drawing in the sand?” She asked.
“Life.” He replied

“What are you mumbling?”
“The sounds of life”

“Why do you have 3 toes and a stump?”
“I rolled down a hill full of jagged rocks as sharp as swords”

“What were you thinking, rolling down such a hill?”

The man smiled, revealing a most beautiful set of pearly white teeth.

You didn’t see that coming, did you?
You expected crooked yellowed teeth with black patches and gaps in between, didn’t you? Gotcha!

And he said, “I missed a step while hunting inquisitive little children for my evening meal, they leave a curious taste on the tongue – I like it”

Oh how terrified the little child was!
Oh how she ran!
And oh how she wished she was brave enough to stay and ask some more questions!

Life?
The sounds of life?
Where was this hill?
What is his name?
Does he have a mother and father?

When she ran far enough, she slowed down and looked back.

“Come back tomorrow. I will tell you a story!” He yelled to her.

That night, she itched to tell. But she couldn’t tell anyone. When her big brother let her chew on the chicken bones, she almost told in a surge of gratitude. But she didn’t. If she did, he might tell their mother and she would worry and ask her not to go back.  Worse still, she would keep her in sight the whole day.
She worries too much, that woman.

Under a million stars and skies streaked crimson by the rising sun, a child ran off into the dawn. Eager, hungry for answers and glimpses of a world she cannot reach.

There she found him, by the shore, all stump, three toes and a smile that cuts through ice.

The wind blew cold and he shivered in his rags. She handed him the blanket, the one with mangoes and colorful birds painstakingly embroidered in.
He smiled.

“I was joking about eating inquisitive children. If I eat the children who ask the questions, who will dream the world into what it is to be?”

“What do you eat?”

“Wild fruits and clear water, laughter, sweet scents, the buzz of bees,  the crash of waves, the sight of a leaf floating through the air to land on the earth and all those things that makes one sigh and smile”

What do these taste like?

“They taste like love. Please don’t ask what love tastes like child, sit…”

And so she sat.

He told her stories of youth, of swimming in rivers hidden from sight, of the sights seen from the branches of the tallest baobab tree, of thrilling chases through a tunnel which ends in a place so dark, it swallows all light.

The day after, he told her of a young woman who made his thoughts stumble over each other, his heart race and his hands fumble, of how she went away before he could explain to her that her skin catches the sunlight and takes his breath away. He told her of the battles fought within himself and the battles he fought for causes he never understood.

In the months that came, she learnt from him how to heal a broken wing, how to smell rain in the air hours before it comes. He taught her about pain and sacrifice.

He painted pictures with his tongue, stretched her mind, widened her heart, drew tears from her eyes and gasps from her throat.

More and more, the hours she spent away from his presence became bleak and intolerable. She stayed up at night waiting for dawn, so she could run off to hear tales of courageous feats and reckless adventures. She dreamt and prayed that she sees and feels half as much as he had, before she closes her eyes in eternal sleep.

Years went past. A thousand stories were told, except the story of how he got three toes on one foot and a stump on the other. And the one of how he came to sit by the shore, under three stars, every day.

Under a millions stars and skies streaked crimson by the rising sun, a young woman ran joyfully into the dawn, down to the shore. There she found the blanket with mangoes and colorful birds painstakingly embroidered in, lying on the sand. The edges had roughened with age.

Lying next to it, she found him asleep, wearing a robe of deep green with golden patterns. His left hand clasped an edge of the blanket, his right a small blue sea shell. A little smile played at the edges of his mouth – frozen in eternal amusement.

She draped the blanket over her shoulders and made a clasp from the shell. Then she  walked off into the distance, to find for herself, the things of which he spoke.

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